The Intelligent Community Forum Movement meets Maslow’s "Hierarchy of Needs"

Over the past two decades, the concept of the smart city and Intelligent Community has evolved. ICF’s core ideas quickly went beyond the concept of primarily promoting broadband and related smart infrastructure and evolved an holistic approach reflecting people’s use and application of this infrastructure for economic, social and cultural gain; reflecting societal needs and aspirations; and encouraging innovation, advocacy and sustainability. These concepts became improved over the years, explained and reinforced, but their core values have been around for a long time.

It’s interesting to note that communities around the world took to ICF’s virtuous cycle of criteria quite naturally. While we have modified the language around its indicators over these years, they have generally remained consistent. Accordingly, I suggest that this seemingly simple list of criteria has a fundamental connection to our basic needs. We know that there are many more indicators on lists that others put forward to try to explain what their smart city or Intelligent Community is all about. We, of course, also speak about leadership, collaboration and risk attraction, among other indicators, but this list has stood the test of time and served many communities well in moving themselves forward as Smart21 cities and Intelligent Communities. So what are these basic needs? We don’t have to go farther than to look at Abraham Maslow’s ideas in his 1943 paper: "A Theory of Human Motivation," from which Maslow’s hierarchy of needs evolved. At first glance, they don’t exactly seem to line up with ICF’s criteria, but by looking more closely at both, they tend to line up quite well. Their basic essence is to provide the individual and the community (of individuals) with everything they need to survive and succeed in a globally competitive and environmentally challenged world. I have often thought that it’s amazing that ICF’s approach has consistently met so many communities and people’s needs over the years. Maybe it’s not so mysterious after all as it meets Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

ICF’s Criteria as shown as a Virtuous Cycle


Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"


ICF's Virtuous Cycle Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" Comments
Broadband Physiological This deals with all the functions and activities of citizens, including all of the physical and environmental elements needed to sustain them. It is similar to all the infrastructure needs of a community’s citizens and society in general to sustain them as well. Broadband, as a core element of smart infrastructure is crucial for the working of successful communities in the future. Sensors identify when critical issues appear and need to be fixed. Data retains the knowledge and through evidenced based information, future issues can be avoided. Predictive analysis of systems dealing with mobility, utilities and environmental protection are essential elements of smart societies which leverage enabling infrastructure such as broadband and information technology to create the best physical and intelligent systems ecosystems possible. As such, it is the base foundation upon which a successful holistic approach is possible.
Knowledge Workforce Safety and Security Safety and security are key to a successful community. However, ensuring a safe and secure environment requires knowledge workers, education and the ability to stay ahead of those things that would make you unsafe and insecure - physically, socially, economically and environmentally. Enabling technologies, smart applications, and advanced methodologies require smart citizens to implement them. Staying ahead also means filling the skills gap that might be needed to ensure that societies remain safe and secure.
Digital Equality Love and Belonging Ensuring inclusion, equality and concern for your fellow citizens and mankind is a sign of a caring and successful community. Given that people began to see the ever-increasing gap between the “have’s and the have -nots”, a civilized approach to “bridge the gap” was created and even mandated by some societies. It used to be called bridging the “digital divide”. Today we use the terms digital and social inclusion as well as digital equality. To have equitable and affordable access to broadband will help to ensure that all parts of society have an equal opportunity for a better life, no matter what their circumstances. The aphorism: "a rising tide lifts all boats" applies well here - to benefit all participants in the community.
Advocacy Esteem Through advocacy, there is an ability for leadership, collaboration and good governance to create and ensure a positive environment for all, while creating mentors, champions and even heroes as well as models for benchmarking and best practices. To reinforce this for all, excellence in public policy and opportunities for citizen participation is essential. Esteemed communities that create this ecosystem based on fairness and trust tend to attract, grow and retain investment, jobs and talent.
Innovation Self-actualization The opportunity to innovate, create, and share as well as ensure it is environmentally sound all require the motivation and drive of people to be self-starting, entrepreneurial, creative and giving. Self-actualizing communities don’t wait for others who may not even have the best interests of their communities at heart. These are communities that bootstrap their communities to make it happen through aggregating demand, ensuring excellence in strategic planning and implementation as well as employing smart communications and marketing.
Sustainability Self-actualization Communities must decide that their environment, economy and society are worth sustaining. A holistic approach is essential for its citizens to be self-aware to demand a more efficient, effective, sustainable community that is also environmentally and economically sound. All of these require the motivation and drive of people to be self-starting, entrepreneurial, creative and giving. It also requires leadership to properly communicate the reasons for this approach across society and for its citizens to agree to this approach, without which solutions to challenges may go unfulfilled.
John G. Jung
Urban Planner; Urban Designer; Economic Developer; Author; Speaker; re. Smart & Intelligent Cities; Co-Founder/Chair ICF; ICF Canada, Global Cities Navigator.
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